Friends - 8 Benefits
Author: Kate Cross
Whether it’s a drink with friends or date night, few things come close to time spent with those we love. After all, wasn’t it the wise Winnie-The-Pooh who said, “Any day spent with you is my favourite day”?
But, if you’re looking to celebrate this year’s International Day of Friendship, it might be worth thinking beyond your immediate social circle.
Marked every July 30, the event is based on “the idea that friendship between peoples, countries, cultures and individuals can inspire peace efforts and build bridges between communities”, according to the UN, which declared the day back in 2011.
Clearly, the event is about more than just catching up with mates.
Here are eight ways to go one step further and celebrate this year’s International Day of Friendship (or any day, for that matter), according to relationship experts. Granted, some pieces of advice may be more actionable than others depending on where in the world you are reading this from and what social restrictions are in place.
“Acknowledge people you share space with.” This is the advice of Clinical and Counselling Psychologist Elisabeth Shaw who says the people you acknowledge could be anyone from a fellow dog walker to those queuing at the same bus stop. “Saying ‘Good morning’ forces a reply, and it creates a small connection that is so much more valuable than the silence that would otherwise prevail,” says Ms Shaw, CEO of Relationships Australia NSW.
Practise reciprocity. If asked ‘How are you?’, Ms Shaw encourages you to ask the same question back rather than leave the interaction one-sided. “Acknowledge the humanness of you both,” she says.
Meet your neighbours. “This might feel awkward if you have been avoiding it,” says Ms Shaw. However, she recommends leading with “‘I realise we have been in this lift many times and never said hello. I’m …’.”
Celebrate the arts. Counselling Psychotherapist and Lifestyle Doctor Karen Phillip recommends “show[ing an] interest in culturally diverse art, dance and craft by visiting somewhere new and taking the time to ask questions”.
Lead local change. Most people tend to follow the pack rather than lead, says Ms Shaw. However, she adds it only takes one person to host a social event and others may follow.
Volunteer and participate. “Volunteer in a diverse area to learn about people, their lives and culture,” suggests Dr Phillip, who also recommends joining social groups.
Help those in need. “If you have elderly neighbours or people with fewer resources, offering to pick up some groceries or mow their nature strip, get their mail … or wheel their bins [in] … all help with a sense of community care,” says Ms Shaw. Adds Dr Phillip: “Displays of kindness are free and can be shown with a smile or offering a hand to help that transmits across borders, genders and cultures.”
Be present. Sometimes, says Dr Phillip, people “merely want to feel recognised and worthy”. You might, for example, simply sit with someone and “just be present”, she suggests.
“As human beings are relational beings, we draw positive energy, nourishment, stimulation, validation and self-esteem from our interactions and connections with others,” says Ms Shaw.
“Making a very direct commitment to building connections has a direct effect on one’s own morale and sense of relationship and community, so will have a positive effect even before anyone responds to the overture – and most will,” she adds.